Should I join an academy and how do they work?

Another frequent question we are often asked is regarding invites to Football Academies. These are some things to consider :

What is an Academy?

An Academy is quite simply a facility setup to train young footballers to develop their skills and knowledge of the game. Most professional clubs have their own academies with the aim to produce football players capable of one day moving into their first team. Any organisation is entitled to call their football centre an academy, however the word ‘academy’ is often over-used within the football community. Many private academies in reality are simply training centres that allow any player to join if they are willing to pay a fee regardless of their ability. It is very popular to use the word Academy as it suggests a certain level of achievement or ability. Many of these centres are also fond of the words ‘Elite’ or ‘Professional’ and other similar words to attract ambitious parents to register with them. That is not to suggest that these centres are no good, any training facility is as good as the coaches working within the setup and you may well find value for money by joining one of these sessions. However don’t be fooled into thinking this is a professional football academy. A professional football club invest heavily in their academy setups and are usually free of charge for players to join, this is because it is the club that are investing in their future as they have seen potential in the player to one day perhaps develop into a professional footballer. So if you are unsure whether you have been invited to a ‘proper’ academy, ask this question, ‘Do I have to pay to join?’ If the answer is Yes, it’s probably not an academy.

What is the procedure to join an Academy?

Often the most common pathway to joining a professional football academy is via an invite to trial from either a coach or scout. Professional clubs these days have ‘satellite development centres’ which operate in various areas surrounding the clubs location. The reach of these centres often depends on the size of the club and the investment they are able to afford. These centres are often the first step along the road to joining, they provide an opportunity for players to play with others of similar ability which allow coaches and scouts to get a proper look at the player and determine if they are still shining in a more challenging environment. Again these centres are often free and allow the players to settle and have more time to ease their nerves and really show their capabilities. If a player is still excelling they may then receive an invite to trial with the existing academy players.
So when you are first invited to trial by a scout, it’s usually to attend one of these Satellite Centres to allow the scouts a better look.

Should I accept an invite to join an Academy?

It’s always a nice feeling to be asked to join a proper professional football academy as it means that somebody has recognised some potential in your son/daughter and is willing to invest in them and give them an opportunity to explore that potential. However it’s not always the best option for your child. Whilst it can often be a great opportunity it can also be a very stressful environment with lots of pressures added to their mental well-being. Many academies go above and beyond to provide the very best learning environment for young players, which focus not just on football but the whole person. They teach them life-skills that prepare them for situations or potential careers outside of football. Ultimately though the positive/negative experience is often decided by whether the player is successful in pursuing a career in football or is released by the club. Unfortunately the reality is that very few players actually make it through to becoming pros, and the impact of being released can be hard to take, and at times devastating. At Goal Coaching we would always encourage players to explore this opportunity to follow their dreams, but proceed with caution and ask these questions. Is my child happy in everyday life? Do they have other pressures adversely affecting their lives? Are they coping mentally with the expectations of playing at this level? Are they enjoying their football?

Don’t be afraid to wait until your child is capable of handling these pressures, the most important thing is that your child is happy, enjoying their football and developing their abilities. If that is within an academy, even better.